Happy New Year to my reading community. My journey through this past year has been one of hard work, and when daunting, you lifted me up with your encouragement. Reading my newsletters, sharing in my journey through commenting on blog posts, and meeting up with me in person has been invaluable. At the end of this post, you’ll find a video highlighting this past year with you. And, please know that while I keep you in the know of new blog posts during 2019, my monthly newsletters are so-last-year.
The last month of 2018 was engaging. I attended
a vigil in honor of National Homeless
Persons Memorial Day. Drawn from personal experience, the homelessness plight
is one I care passionately about and share about through my creative writing. On
the weekend before Christmas, I participated in an author event. On Christmas
Day, I shared my time with women at a shelter.
A Holiday Soiree took place at The Westin, Cincinnati on Saturday, December 22. It was a meet and greet event with local authors sharing their books. At any time, you can see where I will be next by visiting my Author Appearances and Events Page, found under the tab, Media and Contact.
Christmas in the Community Like me, many women at [The Esther Marie Hatton Center and Shelterhouse for Women] are also without the traditional family holiday gathering. This shelter is their refuge. It is a place with resources to regain strength, purpose, empowerment, and stability. Christmas has passed but the needs of these women and others remain.
Homeless People are Dying Every Day: A Candlelight Vigil and an Excerpt from my Memoir. Cities across America observe the annual National Homeless Persons Memorial Day on the day which has the shortest daylight hours. This year it was Friday, December 22. It is in memory of those who have died as a consequence of homelessness.
Many people in our communities are in need, whether struggling through homelessness or another difficulty. I hope you find my ideas and resources helpful as I blog about my journey to make our communities safe and inviting for everyone. Each of us may be limited in what we can do, but coming together in these opportunities, we, as a community make a difference.
From 2018 into 2019
As Year 2019
approaches, I looked back in our sharing through this blog. In January 2018, I
was working diligently with my publishing house and shared with you my work-in-progress.
Revisions on my end and editing on their end where taking off.
My publisher brought forth a few questions, “Why?” or “Didn’t this happen because of this?” There, I need to clue the reader in. This can be challenging. As a true story, the “whys and “why nots” can seem illogical. My homework is to show how chaos evolved into a new way of thinking or a new set of actions.
end of excerpt
I persisted to get my memoir ready for your hands. Out of Chaos: A Memoir published in August 2018. This milestone has been momentous for me and I hope a life changer for others, too. Life is good today. Thank you for 2018. Together, we can make 2019 momentous and good.
When a child, I marveled at the lights and ornaments on the grand Christmas tree in the family living room. Fresh pine needles emitted sweetness; wrapped gifts overflowed from under its lower branches. What more could Santa bring? All that remain from my childhood are memories. For those who have read or are reading my memoir, “Out of Chaos,” you might remember that I have no childhood pictures.
This season, on Christmas morning, as friends gathered with their families, I stayed home; just me and my pet birds.
Christmas afternoon then dawned as I stepped outside onto my house’s front porch. Morning frost had since melted, but a chill remained. I pulled my hat over my ears and made my way to my garage. Then I drove to the The Esther Marie Hatton Center and Shelterhouse for Women, where I met up with friends in the shelter’s kitchen.
Their dinner hour is shared with community members who prepare and serve a warm meal for them, cafeteria style in a large dining room. Christmas dinner was no exception. And I’m happy my friends and I could be with them this Christmas.
Like me, many women at this shelter are also without the traditional family holiday gathering. This shelter is their refuge. It is a place with resources to regain strength, purpose, empowerment, and stability.
They lined up at our kitchen counter, accepting a full dinner plate from us. Their faces and kind remarks showed me their gratitude and their hope for better times in the new year. A tall Christmas tree stood at the far end of the room, decorated and lit. Rather than gifts hugging the tree’s lower branches, it was women hugging each other, in friendship and merriment. Although life is tough for these women, the exchange of a caring spirit brightens the season.
Christmas has passed but the needs of these women and others remain.
I hope you will consider sharing your hope and strength with others whenever and wherever you can. Aside from the below mentioned resources, consider calling the shelters in your area to ask how best to be of service. Nationwide, there are no less than 5000 shelters. We have a lot of homeless people in America. Too many!
A great resource for discovering where in your community could use a helping hand is the website for Homeless Shelter Directory. From its front page, click on the map, picking out your state. From there, it links to a page which lists not only places in need, but also the contact details.
Cities across America observe the annual National Homeless Persons Memorial Day on the day which has the shortest daylight hours. This year it was Friday, December 22. It is in memory of those who have died as a consequence of homelessness.
Led by The Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless, we met at Washington Park in Cincinnati on this evening for a candlelight vigil and remembrance, naming each person lost. No less than 109 Cincinnatians experiencing homelessness died during 2018.
Over 3 million people are without shelter each night, here in America. These statistics –numbers behind real people— are alarming. It is also unnecessary. For comparison sake, that is a close approximation to how many people live in Los Angeles. Picture that many people homeless!
Lack of affordable housing is one obstacle which pushes people to live on the streets. In Cincinnati, nearly 10,000 people lack a stable, permanent residence. These are individuals and families with children. These are hard-working adults who either go to work each day, yet don’t earn more than minimum wage, keeping them from affording housing. These are also hard-working adults who can work yet are currently unemployed; without money to afford housing.
Here in Cincinnati, advocates are joining
forces through grassroots efforts, lobbying, and educating the public, all with
the ultimate goal to eradicate homelessness. Housing should be available and
affordable to everyone.
Cincinnati is not alone in these problems and efforts to make a viable change. A YouTube channel, Invisible People, has an ongoing vlog which shows the personal stories of people all across America; people who either go to work or who are looking for work and who do not have a place to call home. They are living out of their cars, in tents on the streets, or in shelters one night at a time when available.
In my job at the public library in downtown Cincinnati, it seems at times that we are overrun with homeless persons who hang out in our lobbies. Often, I catch myself wondering why they don’t use our library’s resources to pull themselves up. Then, I stop myself from judging. Some are not only homeless but also mentally ill or suffering from substance abuse and addiction.
Residential treatment centers for those caught up in the unending cycle of homelessness and substance abuse are limited in their availability. And many treatment places are a for-profit business, with an expense which can bar people from seeking help. Those who are both homeless and mentally ill can easily be unaware of their risks on the streets. They too could be helped; even if moved into an assisted care home facility.
And I see that a few people do use our library computers and help from the tech center. Librarians make themselves available to help people learn how to use email, how to write a resume, how to complete an online job application, and so much more. With the influx of people experiencing homelessness who turn to our library for shelter during the daytime, it is my daily reminder of why I am grateful today and that it is up to me to build upon my life.
An excerpt from Chapter 22 of my memoir, “Out of Chaos”….
I moved into a boarding house in downtown [Klamath Falls] at a flat rate of $350 a month, with no move-in deposits and that month prorated. For a little more than one hundred dollars, I was in my seven-by-ten room to figure out my next move. It came furnished with a twin bed, the headboard at one wall and the foot of the bed butted up to my jimmy-rigged pantry shelf. The shared bathroom was right next door to me, so the toilet wasn’t far, but the shower-head sucked so I bathed in another floor’s bathroom.
The location was perfect. I
could walk to the State Career Center or the public library in under ten
minutes. A laundromat and my morning AA meeting were a little farther away, but
doable. Fred Meyer’s was the nearest grocery store, which wasn’t so close. I
became a regular at the library where I checked out DVDs [for my seven-inch
portable DVD player] so I could take a break from my Lost reruns.
employment services] finally called me one afternoon at 2:00. “Can you be on assignment
It was for two nights,
dinner shifts, washing dishes at the hospital.
Mid-shift on the second
night, the kitchen supervisor asked me to join him in his office. Even his
office seemed bigger than my apartment. He grabbed a dish towel and wiped away
a bead of sweat from his forehead where dreadlocks fell forward. His dark brown
eyes captured my attention. He said, “Thank you for coming in on such short
notice. Our regular guy is out sick, and we can’t go without a dishwasher.”
I said, “You’re welcome. I’m
glad Express called me to help you.”
He tossed the dish cloth in
a dirty rags bin. “Most people could care less about washing dishes.”
“It feels good to work,” I
“I see that,” he said as he
sat down on his desk. “You’re handling those pots and pans without any
“I’ve been looking
everywhere for work. I’ve got a college degree, but I can’t even get a fast
food place to hire me,” I said.
“Yeah, in this town,
sometimes it’s a matter of knowing the right person. If you didn’t go to school
here or aren’t in someone’s hood, then people don’t know you,” he said.
“Working tonight is a nice
change from looking for work,” I said.
“Check in at our personnel
office. I haven’t heard of any openings at all, but if there is something,
they’ve got my word that you’re a good worker.”
“Thank you. I was in here
last week, and a month ago. You all have a hiring freeze.”
He grabbed a binder and a pen and got up off his desk. As he walked me out of his office, he added, “Yeah, that’s the recession for you. Keep up the good work. I’ve got a meeting to catch.”
–end of excerpt–
Although it felt good to work those two nights, I still didn’t have a real job and no earthly idea how I was to come up with $350 for the following month’s rent. I was at risk for becoming homeless again.
For us as a community to connect with people who are at risk for, or are experiencing homelessness, our awareness of this issue and our preventive action will help in the fight to eradicate homelessness.
A few ways to make a difference:
*Contact nonprofit organizations in the community which raise awareness of homelessness. Many have events and fundraisers.
*Volunteer where you can, from soup kitchens to shelters.
*Donate. Community organizations which help the homeless most often accept monetary gifts, food, clothing, and hygiene items.
Being homeless is not only an uncomfortable situation, it is also risky. Many people die from lack of shelter. Here is a video recap of the candlelight vigil in observance of National Homeless Persons Memorial Day, 2018.
Link here for my blog post, Homeless People are Dying Every Day — Remembering Them and Advocating for Change. (December 27, 2017).